NOTE: I've headed my review deliberately to distinguish it from the other six, all of which relate to an earlier Zoot Sims set by Avid, and which have been cross-posted here by Amazon under their flawed "product group" policy.
The earliest album in this 2-CD set was recorded in Paris in March 1956, with a small group led by pianist Henri Renaud, with trumpeter Jon Eardley, Benoit Quersin and drummer Charles Sudrais. It was released in France on the Ducretet-Thompson label as "Zoot Sims in Paris", but appears here as "Starring Zoot Sims" from the English issue. "Stretching Out" was recorded by the Zoot Sims/Bob Brookmeyer Octet in December 1958, and issued by United Artists. Saxophonisr Al Cohn, trumpeter Harry Edison, pianist Hank Jones, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Eddie Jones and drummer Charlie Persip made up the numbers. Zoot's next visit to the recording studio in January 1959 was as one of a nineteen-piece band directed by Bill Potts in "The Jazz Soul of Porgy & Bess", another United Artists release. Finally, "The Great Zoot Sims: Down Home" dates from June 1960, showcases Zoot in a quartet, with pianist Dave McKenna, bassist George Tucker, and drummer Dannie Richmond, and was released by Bethlehem.
Zoot's sinewy tone dominates the proceedings on the three small group albums and, given his preference for playing with a conventional rhythm section, it's apparent that he chose his backing with care. The concentration is upon jazz and songbook standards, and there's a great sense of drive and a spirit of exuberance throughout. The Gershwin album takes the listener into different territory, and of necessity Zoot's role was subjugated to that of a sideman and occasional soloist. Given the extent of Zoot's recordings as leader, this seems a somewhat strange choice to complete the set, but to withhold a fifth star would be to look a gift horse in the mouth.